Consumer bankruptcies fall to 9-month low


NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of consumers who filed for bankruptcy protection fell in November to a nine-month low, amid signs that consumers are taking on less debt and the economy may be stabilizing.

U.S. consumer bankruptcy filings totaled 114,587 in November, down 13.3 percent from October and the fewest since 111,693 in February, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute, a nonprofit research group. The number of filings, however, rose 2.2 percent from 112,152 recorded last November.

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Samuel Gerdano, executive director of the American Bankruptcy Institute, a nonpartisan research group, reduced his forecast for full-year U.S. consumer bankruptcy filings. He now expects the total to approach 1.6 million, after saying on November 8 that the total would likely exceed 1.6 million.

November's total "is perhaps a positive step that the deleveraging of the U.S. consumer may be underway, after years of expanding consumer debt," Gerdano said in a statement.

U.S. consumer credit outstanding had fallen for 18 out of 19 months before edging higher in September, the most recent month for which Federal Reserve data is available.

The amount outstanding was $2.41 trillion in September, down from $2.57 trillion in January 2009, the last month before the declines began. September's increase from August, though, equated to just a 1.1 percent annualized rate.

Data released on Wednesday showed U.S. private sector payrolls rose in November by the most in three years, while factory activity that month remained well above the minimum level to indicate a growing economy.

Goldman Sachs & Co on Wednesday raised its 2011 forecast for real U.S. gross domestic product growth to 2.7 percent from 2 percent.

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